That morning in May 1999, on an official trip to Italy, as I had switched on the BBC World News, I had heard the announcement that Indian Air Force had started an offensive on the Kargil peaks and there were fears of a full-fledged war with Pakistan. What had till now been known as a minor incursion by infiltrators was now threatening to engulf the two nations into a suicidal war. My friend and I had begun our usual tour of the fair; visiting booths of major companies.
I vividly remember that stall, and the company owner sitting stylishly having a chat with his clients. These Italians sure are one stylish lot. Brown shoes and a red golf cap. I still have’nt got over my bias for brown shoes acquired during those trips to Italy.
As we got on with our promotional lecture the conversation veered off to the Kargil news.
“Pakistan can never defeat India”, he suddenly remarked.
“Oh yes”, we said, “Of Course, we have a bigger army”, we said proudly.
“Oh No!, you got it wrong”, said the Italian
“Is that so? How?”
“You know about Sikhs?”, he asked.
“Of course”, I said, “I am a Sikh”
“Oh, are you?”, he remarked with a surprise, as he suddenly got up from his seat, took off his red cap, “Salute’”, he said in his strong Italian accent; even as he asked me as to why I was not wearing the Sikh turban. I grinned sheepishly in response.
“Hats off, my Sikh friend; you don’t know why Pakistan can never defeat India? It cannot defeat India as long as the Sikhs fight for India.”
We were surprised by his reaction. And we asked him as to how he knew about Sikhs and tried to find out the story behind his view.